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Wilson’s Warbler

A small migratory songbird with a bright yellow plumage, a black cap, and a distinctive song, and it is commonly found in shrubby habitats and forests across North and South America.

The male Wilson’s Warbler is quickly recognized by his yellow plumage and round, black cap. An extensive breeding range from Alaska all the way to to eastern Canada, and migration to Mexico and areas south for the winter, makes it a common migrant across all of the U.S.  Wilson’s Warblers migrate at night.

A single brood is most common in Wilson’s Warblers, but some pairs do attempt to raise a second brood. Nests are never reused, either in the same season or in a subsequent season. Nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird is rather rare.


Description of the Wilson’s Warbler


The Wilson’s Warbler has greenish upperparts and wings, and yellowish underparts. Its black eyes stand out on its yellow face.

Males have a black cap.



Females have a mostly greenish cap.

Female Wilson's Warbler

Female Wilson’s Warbler

Seasonal change in appearance

Fall birds are slightly plainer, with males having more greenish in the cap.


Fall immatures are similar to but somewhat plainer than fall adults.


Wilson’s Warblers inhabit willow and alder thickets, streamsides, and low shrubs undergrowth.


Wilson’s Warblers eat insects.


Wilson’s Warblers forage actively in low shrubs, and sometimes flycatching.


Wilson’s Warblers breed from Alaska across central and eastern Canada and in parts of the northwestern U.S. During migration, they can be seen across most of the U.S. They winter in Mexico and Central America. The population may be declining.

More information:

Fun Facts

Wilson’s Warblers are much more common in the western U.S. than in the east.

Wilson’s Warblers breed as far north as the timberline.

During the winter, individual Wilson’s Warblers may defend a territory, “float” between territories, or join a mixed-species foraging flock


The song is a quick series of chattered, whistled notes.  A sharp “jip” call is also given.

Similar Species

  • Hooded Warbler
    Females of the two species somewhat similar. Hooded Warblers are larger and have white outer tail feathers.
  • Yellow Warbler
    Female Yellow Warbler similar to female Wilsons, has yellower back.


    The Wilson’s Warbler’s nest is a cup of leaves, grasses, and mosses and is lined with finer materials. It is placed on the ground in mossy areas or at the base of a shrub.

    Number: Usually lay 4-6 eggs.
    Color: Whitish with darker markings.

    Incubation and fledging:
    The young hatch at about 10-13 days and fledge at about 8-13 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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